An invaluable resource for those working with children from resettled refugee families as well as host communities.

MUSTAFA

A touching story about adjustment, recovery, love, and friendship, told of a boy whose family moves to a new country due to war.

As Mustafa, a black-haired, brown-skinned boy who seems to be from Syria or Iraq, settles into his new environment, he observes everything around him: In the nearby park, there are green trees, flowers that look like his grandmother’s teacups, and bugs that resemble jewels. He also sees a blonde, white girl with a cat and runs away after she talks to him with words he cannot understand. When he visits the park the next day, he finds many new interesting things, among which is a perfect stick for drawing. He draws an airplane and a burning house and runs away again when the girl comes. She creates butterflies and flowers that erase the previous drawing. Mustafa later sees children playing and waves to them, but they don’t notice him. One day he hears a tune he already knows, but no one pays attention when he whistles along with it. “Am I invisible?” he asks his mom. “If you were invisible, I couldn’t hug you, could I?” she says. Eventually, the girl succeeds in communicating with Mustafa, and a new friendship is born. Gay’s customarily splashy, scratchy illustrations effectively depict Mustafa’s isolation and yearning even as her text carefully delineates what about his new home is familiar and what is strange.

An invaluable resource for those working with children from resettled refugee families as well as host communities. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77306-138-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available.

THE LITTLE GHOST WHO WAS A QUILT

A ghost learns to appreciate his differences.

The little ghost protagonist of this title is unusual. He’s a quilt, not a lightweight sheet like his parents and friends. He dislikes being different despite his mom’s reassurance that his ancestors also had unconventional appearances. Halloween makes the little ghost happy, though. He decides to watch trick-or-treaters by draping over a porch chair—but lands on a porch rail instead. A mom accompanying her daughter picks him up, wraps him around her chilly daughter, and brings him home with them! The family likes his looks and comforting warmth, and the little ghost immediately feels better about himself. As soon as he’s able to, he flies out through the chimney and muses happily that this adventure happened only due to his being a quilt. This odd but gently told story conveys the importance of self-respect and acceptance of one’s uniqueness. The delivery of this positive message has something of a heavy-handed feel and is rushed besides. It also isn’t entirely logical: The protagonist could have been a different type of covering; a blanket, for instance, might have enjoyed an identical experience. The soft, pleasing illustrations’ palette of tans, grays, white, black, some touches of color, and, occasionally, white text against black backgrounds suggest isolation, such as the ghost feels about himself. Most humans, including the trick-or-treating mom and daughter, have beige skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 66.2% of actual size.)

Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6447-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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